Monday, June 16, 2008

Hard Work Always Pays Off

...Just ask 95 year old Kenneth Shepherd, who yesterday received the most amazing father's day gift. Shepherd, a retired oil man, became a member of the University of Missouri's Class of 2008 - 71 years after failure to complete one class kept him from earning his original degree.

Why hadn't he graduated?

"It was a speech course," her father explained. "I took it three times. Couldn't pass it."

The secret spilled out a year ago while Sue and her father were discussing where Sue's granddaughter would go to college.

Finally, he told her, the dean of the engineering school told him, "You need to get on with your life."

Shepherd took a job with a Conoco seismographic team searching for oil in the southern Plains. After Pearl Harbor, he joined the Army and served as an officer in the Pacific. In 1946, he rejoined Conoco. Over the next 30 years, he rose to top executive jobs, mostly in North Africa and the Middle East.

He never seemed like a man who'd flunked speech. He found the voice to address meetings of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and to direct the evacuation of hundreds of oil company employees' relatives from Egypt during the Suez crisis in 1956. After retirement in 1976, he helped form the city of Lakeway and served several terms as mayor.

So, Shepherd's daughter wrote to Mizzou to see if they could award him some kind of diploma based on his career. The University was not encouraging but after reviewing Mr. Shepherd's transcripts discovered that he'd completed enough course work to, based on the University's current requirements, have earned his original degree. It seems that the speech class which proved so difficult for Mr. Shepherd is no longer a requirement for graduation.

"We're not doing this to benefit Mizzou, we're doing it because it's the right thing to do," said James Spain, vice provost. "We're not giving Mr. Shepherd a degree. We're awarding him the degree he earned."

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